What If the Queen Should Die? by John-Paul Flintoff
Today, my special subscriber’s copy of another Unbound book arrived. Unbound are a crowd-funding publisher – read my interview with them for Shiny New Books here to find out more. Once you’ve pledged to one book, it’s very tempting to pledge to another… and another. This is the fourth I’ve pledged to which have been fully published and I’ve pledged to another three which are in the pipeline!
What If the Queen Should Die? is the first novel by John-Paul Flintoff who wrote for the Financial Times and Sunday Times for ages. His book is a literary historical thriller about Daniel Defoe and Queen Anne.
I don’t read many historical novels – so normally wouldn’t have picked this book out, without a recommendation from a friend – but having pledged to a Gothic novel by Ewan Laurie at Unbound (Gibbous House is billed as “Nicholas Nickleby meets Psycho in a Gothic, 19th-century noir” – I couldn’t resist), John-Paul sent me a cheeky email asking if I’d consider pledging to his novel too. I took a look at the book’s homepage at Unbound, watched JP’s pitch video and thought – why not? I am normally very hard-nosed about email pitches by authors, but had fallen in love with Unbound and getting my name in the back as a subscriber.
All the Unbound authors have a ‘shed’ – a blog for subscribers only. JP posted asking for volunteers to read his novel at an earlier stage and to contribute thoughts as he did final rewrites. I volunteered, naturally, and was sent a proof copy – which I read, and sent back my comments to JP – saying he’d sold it to be on it being an antidote to the Tudor domination of recent years. Here I was going to put a photo of the proof, but I’ve misplaced it in my book mountains!
I enjoyed the proof version of the novel a lot – it was fun, there was a real mystery in the pages and it was the first time I’ve ever read a novel about Queen Anne. She had lost all 17 of her children, and is ill and nearing the end of her life in the book; the powers that be are gathering to influence the line of succession. Daniel Defoe, who was forced to become a spy is in the thick of things and made an engaging hero of the tale.
However, that wasn’t the end of the story… In a long appendix, JP tells how the novel came about – through improvisation workshops with friends and actors, lots of collaboration to help shape its structure. One of the nice touches is in the illustrations of the characters in the main novel – their historical faces are replaced with the improvisers’ and friends’ ones (and subscribers in the final edition).
To cut a long story short, JP took all the proof-readers’ comments and did some rewrites. He also thanked all of us in his ‘shed’, on his own blog and at his online launch party for the book, which I listened to a little but sadly couldn’t join in not having a charged phone to use the app!
So, my copy arrived yesterday. First thing I did was to turn to the back to check my name in the list of subscribers – tick. Then I started leafing through the front, took out the bookmark – and there I am! My comment “an antidote to the Tudor domination of recent years” is in there at the top of a page of readers’ quotes. Full review to follow when I’ve read the final version. However – JP, Thanks for involving your readers – it was great!
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Source: Own copy
John-Paul Flintoff, What If the Queen Should Die?, Unbound, May 2016. Hardback, 288 pages.